Hundreds of ‘invisible’ children excluded from education – report

Children with autism have been expelled or withdrawn due to inadequate supports, say families

 

Hundreds of “invisible” children with autism or special needs are being excluded from school but do not show up in official statistics, according to new research.

Many vulnerable children have been unable to access school places because schools say they cannot cope with their additional needs.

In some cases, children have been expelled by schools or parents have withdrawn their children for months, or even years, due to inadequate supports.

The findings are contained in a survey of more than 300 families with children who have been excluded from school by the autism charity AsIAm, which is due to be published shortly.

Some 90 per cent of respondents said they have had no contact from Tusla, the child and welfare agency.

National scandal

AsIAm founder Adam Harris said the scale of the problem was a national scandal. “These children are invisible and don’t show up in statistics. It is happening under our noses and the State is pretending that it isn’t,” he said.

He called on Minister for Education Joe McHugh to seek urgent policy advice from the National Council for Special Education on the issue of school exclusion.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh has been called upon to seek urgent policy advice from the National Council for Special Education on the issue of school exclusion. Photograph: Jim Coughlan
Minister for Education Joe McHugh has been called upon to seek urgent policy advice from the National Council for Special Education on the issue of school exclusion. Photograph: Jim Coughlan

The Department of Education said it had invested record sums in special education and the number of special classes in schools had jumped from 548 to 1,459 since 2011. Its official advice is that there are sufficient special class placements to meet existing demand nationally, though it says there is high demand in parts of Dublin.